The world’s largest mapping of life on earth – Sweden at the center

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We are in a completely normal Swedish coniferous forest, and that is the point. It’s just a small part of a worldwide project expected to discover thousands of new species.

– We try to understand the forces that shape life. 80 percent of all species are still unknown, says Tomas Roslin, professor at the Swedish University of Agriculture.

Already in a preliminary study, the researchers found twice as many mushroom species as previously known. Now over 500 people map close to 200 areas on Earth in the smallest detail – from Greenland in the north to Antarctica in the south. Important driving forces are climate change and the many species that are now dying out.

– The spread of life and the conditions for life are changing. And if we don’t understand the relationship between climate and where different species are; how then are we to understand what happens when we change everything?

Only the permits have taken two years

Just getting permits in all countries for thousands of cameras and microphones, spore and bug catchers has taken two years. Now you empty the memory cards every week and collect genetic samples of the life you find.

There will be enormous amounts of data, which can only be DNA sequenced and interpreted systematically using new methods and artificial intelligence. Therefore, they are also more IT engineers than ecologists.

– So far we have recorded 1 billion minutes of sound, and are now developing AI methods to identify all birds. And instead of sorting each insect, we send everything to a lab where they sequence all the DNA at the same time. There alone we save 100,000 working hours.

For at least six years, life will be mapped, but the researchers are already seeing surprising patterns. Areas in completely different locations. but with a similar climate, has roughly the same species composition, which is important for the future. And there are more benefits with the giant project, says one of the teams from species-rich Madagascar, visiting the coniferous forest.

– In Madagascar, many natural areas are threatened by devastation, but the attention to the new species we will find can protect important ecosystems for the future, says Tsiry Igkwandwa.